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Friday, May 9, 2014
Posted By: Laurelle Olfdord-Down in Fruit Trees

I am noticing a huge increase in popularity among gardeners to plant edibles. There is an upswing in popularity among designers to include fruits, herbs and other edibles in the landscape. Parents want their kids to actually see where their food comes from, say a tree or a bush and not a cello wrapped bag from the grocery store. Young couples in apartments want to grow fruit trees and veggies in containers on their balcony or allotment garden. People new to Canada are coming to nurseries asking for new and unusual favorites. I am excited to see this happening.

Planting stuff you can eat is a great way to encourage gardeners. Plants that ‘pay rent’ are a lovely thank you for all of that work we put in to fertilizing, watering and oh my goodness the weeding. Planting edibles…fruit and berries in particular, is not very difficult and like all gardening, put the right fruit in the right place and in some cases with the right partner and you can make even the most mediocre of gardeners into a proud, fruit toting zero mile foodie! Pollination! This is viewed as a deep dark secret by some and is a too often stumbling block to many.

So I’m going to try to simplify this subject and help you to be a successful fruit grower. To get you on the right track, I will clarify a couple of terms. Pollinizer is the tree or shrub that provides the pollen. A pollinator is the bee, fly, wasp, butterfly, bat, hummingbird or other critter that transfers the pollen from one plant to another.

Apple Tree Pollination

Apple Tree Pollination

Apples, it takes two DIFFERENT apple varieties that bloom around the same times to get apples. As long as the blossoms open within about a week of one another and you have pollinators present and hard at work you will get apples. Crabapples in particular have a nice long bloom time and will often cover a wide range of pollination days.

Do you need your apple trees to be in the same yard and right next to one another? No. As long as the apple or crabapple tree are within about 4 city lots of one another you will likely get apples. It used to be a square city block of one another but our pollinators are getting scarce. Certainly the closer the better. There a number of apples known as triploids. These apples are like the greedy stepsisters of the pollination world…all take, take, take and no give. The can be pollinated by another tree but will not pollinate anyone else, so you would need a third variety in the mix if you wanted apples on all of the trees. Why plant a triploid? They are often pretty tasty varieties like: King of Thompkins County, Bramley’s Seedling and Gravenstein.

Cherry Tree Pollination

Cherry Tree Pollination

Cherries, there are a number of varieties like the sour cherries, bush cherries and some sweet cherries that are self- fruitful. There are also a number of varieties that will require a DIFFERENT cherry variety nearby as a pollinizer to produce cherries. It will usually say so on the label. All cherries will benefit from having a DIFFERENT cherry variety nearby and you will often get bigger yields if this is the case. You have 2 different cherries nearby and wonder why you don’t get fruit some years? Watch what happens at bloom time…if it is raining up, down and sideways…the pollinators can’t do their job, they stay home and wait for the rain to stop like sensible bees.

Plum Tree Pollination

Plum Tree Pollination

Plums, we’ll cover European and Japanese varieties. Many European varieties are self fruitful. For those that are not you will need another DIFFERENT European plum as a pollinizer. Most Japanese plums will need another DIFFERENT Japanese plum as a pollinizer. It’s not that the European or Japanese plums are unable to pollinize one another it is simply that the Japanese plums often bloom too early to catch the bloom time of the European plums. It is also better to have the Japanese plums at least in the next yard or two as they bloom at a cooler time of spring and we want to make it a bit easier on our hard working pollinators.

Pear Tree Pollination

Pear Tree Pollination

Pears, there are European varieties and Asian varieties. With pears you will need two DIFFERENT varieties of pears for pollination to occur. Asian varieties tend to bloom earlier and European pears tend to bloom later. There is occasional overlap as with Bartlett European Pear and Twentieth Century Asian pear. Pear blossoms are lower in sugar so not particularly attractive to many pollinators. Believe it or not the common housefly helps to pollinate pears! Do try to keep your pears within 10-20 feet of one another to aid pollination.

Blueberry Pollination

Blueberry Pollination

There are a number of varieties that will produce a few with just one plant but you will be rewarded handsomely if you plant another blueberry close by. I like to have all my berries in one patch. Did you know the bell shaped blossoms will only release their pollen with the specific vibration of a bees wings? For all you music buffs I believe it is the key of C. If you have a tuning fork and you hit it and place it next to a blossom, you can see the pollen release…cool eh?

Haskap / Honey Berry Pollination

Haskap or Honeyberry – You will need two unrelated varieties that bloom at the same time to get fruit. The little yellow flowers are early but seem to be very attractive to our pollinators. I would plant them closer together, say about 3-5 feet.

Seabuckthorn

You will need one female plant and one male plant to produce fruit. No you don’t have to look under the leaves to tell…it’s on the label

Lingonberries

One plant is fine but you will produce more fruit if you get multiples…perhaps it just makes it more attractive to the pollinators.

Small Fruit Pollination

Other Small Fruits

Raspberries, Blackberries, Currants, Figs, strawberries. You are fine with just the one. Though in the case of raspberries and strawberries it won’t be just one for long!

Now get out there and get cracking! The sun is out and the time is just right. Try something new, challenge yourself and plant an edible. If you have questions still, come in and say Hi! Wow me with your awesome knowledge of the difference between and pollinizer and pollinator and I will be thrilled to bits and answer all of your questions. Actually, if you forget and don’t know the difference, I will still answer your questions…but I might sneer a little…inside ;).


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Art's Nursery is a 10+ acre retail and wholesale garden centre located in Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. We've been in business at this same location since 1973 and we're proud to serve you today!

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